In frigid baseball temperatures, the Northern Illinois pitching staff outlasted Souther Illinois in the series opener as the Huskies (1-6-1) defeated the Salukis (5-3), 1-0.
Pitcher Eli Anderson (Glenview, Ill./New Trier) hurled 7.1 innings, striking out eight while scattering five hits and allowing two walks. The temperature at first pitch, 12:03 p.m., was 43 degrees Fahrenheit.
Both NIU and SIU only combined for nine hits in the game and only two base runners, Huskies Alex Smith (Mahomet, Ill./Parkland College) and Landon Tenhagen (Burlington, Wis./Madison Area Tech) touched third base in the game as the Salukis failed to advance past second base.
“It was a very good, clean college baseball game today. Runs were at a premium, as was third base. I thought both defenses were solid today, with the exception of a failed pickoff attempt on our part,” said head coach Ed Mathey. “The run held and we’re happy for that. As long as we continue to play clean defensively and continue to be opportunistic like we were today, it’s going to help us win some ball games down the road.”
NIU scored the game’s only run in the second inning as Tenhagen led the frame with a walk off of Sam Coonrod, Perfect Game USA’s No. 42 ranked junior for this year’s MLB Draft. The Huskie was pushed to second on a groundout by Brandon Mallder (Bridgeview, Ill./St. Laurence) and was sent home from second base by third base coach Tom Carcione as sophomore Brian Sisler (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) singled to right field to put NIU on top of SIU, 1-0.
“Brian’s RBI was big for us. Coach Carcione did a heck of a job to send Landon home on the play. That’s an instinct call to send the runner home and it worked out on a bang-bang play,” added Mathey.
With a lead in his back pocket, Anderson worked the strike zone efficiently to force the Salukis off balance at the plate as he caught four Southern Illinois batters looking at called strike three. The senior threw 69 strikes in his 110 pitches while on the mound for a 62.7 percent strike ratio. SIU’s Coonrod hurled six innings and walked four batters while striking out five.
After recording his eighth strikeout to lead off the eighth inning, Anderson allowed a single and was relieved by classmate Anthony Andres (Western Springs, Ill./St. Rita). After walking his first batter and sending the runner to second on a failed pickoff attempt, Andres remained composed and forced a pop fly to centerfield and a groundout to shortstop to carry the Huskie lead into the ninth inning.
A leadoff double by Chris Divarco (Long Grove, Ill./Carmel Catholic) and a walk by Tenhagen put two runners on base for the Huskies in the top of the ninth inning in an attempt to score insurance runs but NIU was unable to bring the runners home and went all-in for a 1-0 victory at SIU.
Freshman Andrew Frankenreider (Peoria, Ill./Dunlap) stepped onto the mound for Northern Illinois in the bottom of the ninth to attempt his first career save. The sidearm slinger did not disappoint as he threw only seven pitches against the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 batters. Frankenreider struck out the first batter of the inning and forced two-straight popups to secure Northern Illinois’ victory.
The combined shutout was the second of Anderson’s career, sharing the workload with Kevin Sweeney last season at Toledo on May 3, while Andres and Frankenreider pick their first career combined shutout.
Sisler finished 1-for-3 at the plate with an RBI from the No. 9 spot in the lineup while Tenhagen was NIU’s most frequent baserunner, going for 1-for-2 with a walk, a hit-by-pitch and the game’s only run. Sali Cody Daily was the only player in the game with multiple hits, finishing 2-for-4.
Northern Illinois will close the series with Southern Illinois as the two square off in a doubleheader Saturday at Rent One Park, starting at 11 a.m. Admission is free for both games.
For more information on NIU baseball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.